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No, It's Not A "Comedy." It's MUCH Better!
on 20 February 2010
These are only my personal opinions. But having read both the synopsis here on Amazon and the other reviews of this movie, either I've missed something entirely or other people have completely misinterpreted this film.
I would definitely agree that this movie does have some truly wonderful comedy moments. However, that does not automatically mean that it is a 'Comedy.' And indeed, like many of my favourite Japanese and Korean movies, it is actually rather difficult to define.
The film's trailer on the DVD described it as a 'Heart-warming story of four adults who don't quite fit into adult society.' And in truth, I believe that this is the best way for anyone to put it into words.
First of all, there is the junior manager of a hospital's cleaning service; a genuinely good man, still single at thirty who always puts other people first. His own boss insists that he just wants people to like him, and in his self-conscious insecurity, he believes him. But no, in reality he is genuinely a good person, and many others recognise him for what he is.
Secondly, there is the first man's childhood friend who one woman describes as a 'Degenerate.' Even though he is also on the verge of turning thirty, he is obsessed with horror films and childish pranks, calling his practical jokes 'Research' because he longs to build "The Scariest Haunted House In The World." So is he just refusing to grow up, or is he genuinely pursuing his dream?
Next of course is Akari, the woman without whom this film could never have been made. How anyone could find her 'Hilarious' is beyond me, because I do feel genuine compassion for her. And while it's true that she is 'Clumsy to the point of being useless,' the irony is that it's her fear of mistakes that causes many accidents in the first place.
She's not a 'Clutz.' She's a genuinely talented artist, and like the first man, a truly beautiful human being. When she loses her job and is reduced to eating fish which she has caught from a nearby river, he tries to help her, but he is nervous and ashamed because he's 'Obviously just trying to get into her bedroom.'
And finally, there is a customer at the bookshop who only appears once during the first part of the film. He is also a good person, but the red birthmark on his face makes him nervous, self-conscious and ashamed.
In short then, these four people are only really held back by their fears of what 'Others' might think. So if only they could relax and be themselves, then they would surely find true happiness.
Beyond this group however, the second man's father is the owner of the bookshop and he feels very depressed. For what reason? We're not entirely sure. But in the end, he does find true happiness, and one of my favourite parts of the film is the song which he dedicates to his love of rice.
At least one person has complained about the ending of this movie. After all, it probably wouldn't even fit many Western people's definition of an 'Ending' in the first place. But as I mentioned before, this is really the story of four people's search for the contentment that will one day lead to happiness. So instead of offering us 'Jealousy & Bitterness' or 'Victory vs. Defeat,' I found the quiet ending to be very poignant and beautiful; the two men who'd also loved her both moving on and remaining friends, still dreaming of what 'Might' have been as her new happiness made them feel happy as well.
In conclusion then, this is a very touching 'Slice of Life' drama without Western clichés of any kind. It is subtle, gentle, heart-rending and emotive, yet also hilarious and even quite disturbing at times. In short, it is another masterpiece of Asian cinema. And having felt hesitant to even buy this DVD because of blinkered attempts to label it a 'Comedy,' I will pay much more attention to my own instincts from now on.